Professor, Two Students Make Two-Mile Jump

Operation Freefall raises awareness of sexual assault

Published: Apr 27, 2011
The UT participants will make a two-mile tandem jump like the one pictured with professionals from Skydive City./Photo courtesy of Skydive City
The UT participants will make a two-mile tandem jump like the one pictured with professionals from Skydive City./Photo courtesy of Skydive City
When Assistant Professor Kathryn Branch, who teaches criminology and criminal justice at UT, mentioned in her victimology class that she’d be skydiving for a good cause, she didn’t anticipate two of her students joining her in the jump.

Tony Suarez ’13 and Jessica Schneider ’11 will be strapping on gear and loading into the plane with Branch for a tandem, 2-mile drop with Skydive City of Zephyrhills, FL.

“I think it’s really exciting that they want to jump too,” Branch said. “We’re all affected directly or indirectly. Most people think they don’t know anyone who is a victim, but they should think again.”

Operation Freefall is a national event where people from throughout the U.S. simultaneously jump on the last Saturday in April. It is a day-long event where family and friends gather to support the skydivers. Branch said it turns into a giant picnic with a lot of energy. It’s fun, tearful and healing.

Funds raised go toward Speaking Out About Rape Inc. (SOAR) and a local organization of the team’s choosing. The UT participants, who are part of the 26-member Team Crisis Center, are raising money for the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, provides direct services to victims of sexual assault.

“I’m doing it because it’s a good cause,” said Suarez, a criminology major who plays second base and shortstop on UT’s baseball team. “It just hit me that I wanted to be a part of this. It’s not just us skydiving, there are victims jumping too. It’s big for them.”

Jumpers are required to raise $1,000 to participate, a feat that daunted Schneider.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to raise that much money, but I wanted to at least try,” said Schenider, a film major, who met her goal at the last minute. While a little nervous about the jump, she said raising awareness makes it worth it.

Skydiving – and the reason for it – is a great conversation starter, said Branch.

“The coolest part is the dialogue it starts,” Branch said. “It’s an awkward topic for people to talk about, but when you say you’re skydiving, it opens the door.”


Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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